Belgian dancer and choreographer Karine Ponties has returned to Ha Noi for the fifth contemporary dance festival "Europe Meets Asia in Contemporary Dance". She continued to collaborate with the Viet Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNBO) and created a duo dance piece entitled At the Rivage featuring the performance of a Vietnamese dancer from VNOB and a Slovak dancer from her company Dame de Pic.
She spoke with Bach Lien about the dance festival.
Which story do you want to tell to the public with the piece At the Rivage?
The dance piece tells about a meeting in a fragile place, which is the rivage.
Here, I want two people from two different continents and different cultures to meet each other.
The rivage is made of sand and beach, and its fragility has always touched me.
What will happen at this meeting?
There is some loneliness. And they spend together moments of tenderness, but also face moments of violence of nature. Waves can be violent on the gravel. At the rivage, they meet and create a common language.
Was this collaboration with those dancers of different cultures difficult?
Yes, it was very complicated. Nam (the Vietnamese dancer) and Jaro (the Slovak dancer) had performed together in a dance duo at the contemporary dance festival last year. So this time, it was much easier for them.
Nam had never practised contemporary dance. He was only familiar with classical dance and ballet with VNOB. Nam was quite rigid, while Jaro was much softer. It took them a lot of time to work together.
Now, I am happy to see them together on the stage, and the beautiful equilibrium they created. The two artists complement each other.
Nam is the only Vietnamese dancer with whom you have worked. How did you know Nam? Is it difficult for you to work with him because you do not speak the same language?
I came to Viet Nam for the first time in 2011 for the first Asia-Europe Meeting contemporary dance festival, with the piece Benedetto Pacifico. We had a very good critic and applause from the public.
And they wanted me to come back. So, I came back to Viet Nam in 2014 and wanted to collaborate with VNOB for my dance pieces.
But I only wanted to meet and work with only one dancer from the theatre because I had only 12 days to work for the dance pieces here, so I thought I could not work with several people in such a short time.
I chose Nam after I watched several videos featuring the theatre's dance performances. I chose him to perform in two dance pieces, Havran and La Tour des Vents (Wind Tower).
At first, Nam didn't cry – but almost. His legs, arms and his whole body were sore. He had never worked so hard. We worked eight hours per day, without understanding each other's language. He didn't speak English nor French, and I didn't speak Vietnamese. But we understand each other perfectly. We can communicate without speaking.
You have come back to Viet Nam three times. Why are you interested in working with Vietnamese partners?
It is because I have an attachment to Nam and other Vietnamese people I met and worked with. I love meeting people and I love voyages.
Dance is the universal language I can share with other people.
Previously, I worked in Mexico, Senegal and Russia, and I love cultural diversity.
I have thought about creating a dance piece inspired by Vietnamese culture, but I need to further discover the Vietnamese culture and travel more in the country to be able to do it.
I wish to have more collaboration with VNOB artists through workshops. I see that contemporary dance is still new in Viet Nam. The country needs a lot of work in this sector.
Through workshops, I can exchange my experiences and learn more easily from others. However, a true collaboration needs time. It's like when you cook, you know that fantastic cuisine takes time. — VNS